Until yesterday, I thought of Mitt Romney as a spineless, disingenuous, and supercilious but more or less decently intentioned person who at least wasn’t the race-mongering pyromaniac that some other Republican candidates of my lifetime have been. Then he gave his speech to the NAACP, and now I think of him as a spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed, and woe to us if this man sets foot in the White House as anything but a tourist…

But he wasn’t a race-baiter until yesterday. That speech wasn’t to the NAACP. It was to Rush Limbaugh. It was to Tea Party Nation. It was to Fox News. Oh, he said some nice things. And sure, let’s give him one point for going there at all. But listen: You don’t go into the NAACP and use the word “Obamacare” and think that you’re not going to hear some boos. It’s a heavily loaded word, and Romney and his people know very well that liberals and the president’s supporters consider it an insult.

We learned a great deal about Mitt Romney yesterday, and what we learned only adds to the picture of this little, plastic fellow who thinks he can get points from white moderates (as explained by an aide to BuzzFeed) by appearing at the NAACP while generating high-fives on the white right for rubbing dirt in the faces of its members while there. Did I earlier give him a point for going there at all? I hereby withdraw it. He went only to send “signals” to other constituencies entirely. I hope those swing voters he was partly aiming for become aware of just how badly he swung and missed on this one.

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After replaying a clip of Romney’s speech, O’Donnell suggested that the candidate had been trying to employ the southern strategy to appeal to racist voters. “Tell me, Goldie, if I’m being too cynical to think that the Romney campaign actually went in that room today with the hope of getting booed at least three times because they want the video of the candidate being booed by the NAACP to play in certain racist precincts where that will actually help them,” the MSNBC host said to contributor Goldie Taylor.

“I don’t think you’re being too cynical at all,” Taylor responded.

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Julian Bond, the noted civil rights leader and former head of the NAACP, echoed the legislators, telling HuffPost, “He is definitely not his father.”…

“He went there to bait us,” Bond said. He argued that Romney deliberately sparked boos by referring to “Obamacare,” which Bond said many African Americans regard as pejorative.

“He wanted to be able to go to some of the independents he needs to get elected and tell them, ‘See? I stood up to the Negroes,'” Bond said. He noted that Romney later said on Fox News that he knew he’d be booed for the Obamacare remark.

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When a presidential candidate speaks to a constituency that gave his party only 4 percent of its votes the last time, he obviously hopes to do better. Mitt Romney, after all, has very little room to do worse with African-Americans in 2012 than Sen. John McCain did in 2008.

But that’s not really the point. Romney’s appeal, like those of other GOP nominees like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, was really to white suburban independents who want reassurance that their inclination to support him does not lead them into backing someone with primitive views on race.

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With the critical eyes of the political world resting squarely upon him, Romney marched defiantly into the lion’s den [of the NAACP] and delivered a speech that was direct, assertive and dispassionate. Undaunted, the man seeking to unseat the nation’s first African-American president stood calmly before a group of his most fervent supporters and informed them that he, not Obama, is the one they’ve been waiting for…

It was a fine performance, one that delivered a distinct message to observers of all political stripes. Democrats saw a candidate who embraced adversity and wasn’t afraid to mix it up. Republicans saw a candidate who was quick on his feet and took a punch without falling down. And independents saw a candidate who isn’t the “extremist” or “panderer” his opponents portray him to be. To the contrary, his message to the liberal organization was consistent with his everyday conservative stump speech, and the optics of Romney confidently courting an opposition audience should play well with skeptical suburbanites eager for someone willing to set aside differences and talk about solutions.

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No, there’s no grounding to Pelosi’s, O’Donnell’s, or Tomasky’s argument. But this is what to expect for the rest of the year: No matter what you say, if it’s critical of Obama, you are opening yourself to be called racist or at least a “race-monger.”

Now, some criticisms of Obama do seem to me to be race-baiting. When Newt Gingrich called Obama a “food-stamp president,” that struck me as an attempt to marshall racial resentment to his corner. But when Rick Perry referred to a “black cloud” of debt, MSNBC host Ed Schultz called that race-baiting, which is absurd. And now Romney is racist for using a term Obama himself has embraced.

It seems to me that this all is either a cynical ploy to abuse anyone who dares criticize Obama, so as to silence debate; or it’s a perverse belief that it’s racist to run against Obama.

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According to this list, the audience applauded 27 times in 25 minutes. That includes when Romney said, among other things: he will represent every race; he will help the middle class; Americans are entitled to an answer about the economy; he supports strong families and traditional marriages; he will help the middle class; bring jobs back to the United States; will stop spending; will protect social Security and Medicare with higher benefits for those with lower income and lower for higher income; wages will rise again; if you want a president to make things better for the African American Community, you’re looking at him; he joined with the Black Legislative Caucus in Massachusetts to promote Charter Schools; he won’t let special interest groups stand in the way of education reform; money for education will be linked to the student for true choice; his father was a man that he admired for equality and justice; and that his father was a man of faith that knew that everyone was God’s children.

He was booed regarding overturning ObamaCare.

What’s particularly stupid about the way the media are manipulating this story is that it makes the audience look somewhat bad (although for my part I wish far more audiences would boo politicians) and it makes Romney look strong and principled.

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Perhaps the most significant thing the NAACP did on Wednesday was re-open the door to charges of liberal double standard – just as Obama supporters were trying to enjoy the high ground after the Supreme Court’s decision last month to uphold Obamacare. The country was rightly mortified in 2010 when right-wing Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina made his irate “You lie!” outburst during Obama’s State of the Union address. The NAACP’s boos may not have been as mean-spirited as Wilson’s heckle (we’ll pause here to let the left-wingers shout “False equivalency!”) but the bottom line is that if a convention of white conservatives had invited Obama to address them this week and then hooted at him, it would have led Rachel Madow’s show.

The boos in Houston risked giving off the kind of air of intolerance for which Democrats like to scold Republicans. It’s as if the NAACP had invited Romney to lay out his platform but rather absurdly told him: Criticizing Obama or his policies is off limits. It simply doesn’t work that way, and that’s what we thought the NAACP’s 2011 resolution had acknowledged – that we’ve got to get back to absorbing dissenting viewpoints instead of demonizing them…

Romney certainly isn’t the guy the African-American community is going to vote for in November, and he acknowledged that in Houston. But he said he accepted the NAACP’s invitation because he hopes to “represent all Americans,” and even if you consider that a disingenuous sentiment on his part, it too is in keeping with a spirit of civil discourse. The NAACP didn’t help its relevance problem this week by breaching that spirit. Or maybe it did, sadly, given all the attention the booing got. If that’s the case, then it’s as much the nation’s problem as it is the NAACP’s.

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Via the Daily Caller.

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Via Mediaite.